A League of Their Own: A Girl & A Gun Raises Industry Standards

A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League is once again at the forefront of higher standards for instructors within the firearms industry.

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BURNET, TX – Spring is a busy time of year for the firearms community, and this year has been busier than ever. One highlight of my spring is always the A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League National Conference. I’m so fortunate that it’s basically offered in my backyard, in Burnet, TX, at Reveille Peak Ranch. The city of Burnet and the surrounding communities are gracious and welcoming hosts, and Reveille Peak is a top-notch facility that, like conference itself, improves year over year.

The AG&AG organization is relatively young, and this was only the 6th annual national conference. It was held April 19-22, with three additional training days before the conference for leadership. What was particularly impressive this year is how the event’s organizers, Julianna Crowder and Robyn Sandoval, have learned from each preceding year and applied those lessons to make this one of the preeminent training opportunities in the nation. This year, 350 members, 50 facilitators, and an all-star cast of top-tier instructors converged on Burnet County for three days of serious and dedicated classes. Topics included beginner to advanced levels on pistol, rifle and shotgun platforms, as well as survival skills and mindset classes crafted to get women thinking about their own safety and independence on many levels. The instructor cadre included:

Leadership Development

Conference began three days early for facilitators and A-Team (chapter members who help with events and are NRA Range Safety Officers). Leadership training is usually always free or extremely low-cost thanks to a bevvy of national sponsors, and ammo is provided, as well. This structure makes it possible for nearly half of the country’s facilitators to make the trip to Texas and stay for a whopping 7 full days of training and growing. This year, Tatiana Whitlock came aboard as AG&AG’s National Director of Training, putting together a structured and purpose-driven leadership development program meant to raise the bar for the instructors who lead AG&AG chapters.

Raising Industry Standards

A Girl and A Gun leadership and facilitators have never been satisfied with the ubiquitous lack of standards within the firearms industry. While facilitators have always been required to complete NRA Basic Pistol Instructor training, we also know that that is the most basic of the basic training, and it’s only a first step in becoming truly competent in our shooting and instruction skills. That fact was ingrained in all of us from the beginning. Kathy Jackson (The Cornered Cat) established a foundation for leadership training within the organization. What has changed under Whitlock’s leadership is that now, A Girl and A Gun is rolling out branded training modules and requiring instructors (facilitators) who teach those modules to train, test, and document proficiency via objective standards that are recognized throughout the industry.

There’s that phrase again: objective standards. It’s a bellwether phrase for the future of the gun industry, and AG&AG is leading the charge.

A Look Ahead

A Girl and A Gun has only been around for 7 years, but in that short time, the organization has managed to stay ahead of industry trends and advances by about 2 years. When the firearms instructor community was still caught up in chest-thumping and “tactical” skills debates, AG&AG facilitator/instructors were developing their emergency medical toolkits and began keeping IFAKs (Individual First Aid Kits) and trauma kits on their person or at the firing line. Last year, every chapter facilitator was given a free trauma kit that included a tourniquet, chest seal, combat gauze and a pressure bandage. This year, every woman who attended leadership development completed Stop the Bleed training by Dark Angel Medical.

A Girl & A Gun is, without a doubt, among the safest and most prepared training organizations within the private-sector firearms community. The industry is sitting up and taking notice, and I can only imagine that raising the standards for A Girl & A Gun will trickle down to the larger firearms training community. Look for that sea change in about two years.

Interested in learning more about A Girl & A Gun Women’s Shooting League? Join the Temple Chapter for our First Tuesday Girls’ Night Out at Temple Gun Club, follow our Google Calendar or join our Facebook Group to keep up with events and news. All skill levels are welcome.

Testing Your Skills: Ed Head Drill

Watch this KR Training video and follow this link to find the course of fire Karl and John Daub are shooting in the video. This course of fire provides a minimum standard that all handgun carriers should be able to meet. Can you?

Rangemaster Instructor Certification at KR Training, April 27-29

LINCOLN, TX – Following up on a whirlwind 7 days of training at the A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League National Conference, I spent April 27-29 at KR Training for the 3-Day Rangemaster Instructor Development & Certification Course.

This was an intimidating class for me, but I put it on my 2018 goal list and made it happen, thanks to Karl Rehn of KR Training. In this sold-out class, Tom Givens taught a class of 18 students the finer points of adult learning theory, deadly force law, and how to identify, correct and communicate solutions for shooting skills issues among our students. While most of the material wasn’t new to me, Tom’s expertise and years of experience informed the way he relayed that information and his expectations of us as instructors. In addition, he emphasized the importance of qualification tests to verify that learning has occurred in a firearms class. After three days, 15 of us successfully earned Rangemaster Instructor Certification, based on objective qualification courses of fire and a comprehensive written exam.

This class was a light-bulb moment for me as an instructor. Course curriculum development usually starts out like any other goal-oriented project planning timeline:

  1. Identify a stated goal or learning objective
  2. Work backwards from that to identify the layers of skill needed to achieve that goal
  3. Develop a plan for teaching those skills in a way that works for most adult learners

Moving forward, I’ll first identify the qualification or test that I’ll employ to verify that the course objective has been met, and then begin building curriculum to meet it. In effect, I’ll be teaching to the test. But, it will be a test that lends itself to the development of skills applicable in the context of real-world defensive scenarios that are most probable given the current body of statistical information.

In other words, I’ll be training my students for real life. Sounds familiar.

This course was a pivot point for me as a self-defense industry professional. My firearms focus has always been self-defense, and I’ve been blessed with level-headed mentors (Kathy Jackson, The Cornered Cat, and Karl Rehn of KR Training) who’ve taught me that people need practical training that applies to their everyday lives and the protection of the same. For my students, what will change is that I’m going to make sure they’ve internalized the lessons and met the goals we’ve set together. For my own instruction, I’m going to seek out classes that require that same verification. I owe my students and myself the opportunity to demonstrate either mastery of a skill or the need for remediation. Without putting skills to the test, how can we be sure that learning has occurred?

Our lives are worth protecting, and our skills give us the means to do it effectively, without endangering anyone else in the process. That’s our minimum standard as gun owners, because as Kathy Jackson likes to say, “A gun is not a rabbit’s foot that keeps the bad guys away.” Indeed. It’s a tool. It’s our JOB to make sure we have the mindset, training and skills necessary to use that tool safely under extreme stress. Let’s get to training.

 

3 lessons from tragedy: Avoiding violence in personal relationships

Just a few months ago, a woman I had trained with in an upper-level shooting class was suddenly murdered by her soon-to-be-ex-husband. The San Antonio murder-suicide rocked our community of aware and prepared people.

Jennifer had pursued hours and hours of education on various firearms platforms, and what comes with this community of one-percenters is a natural emphasis on awareness, mental preparation, and the ability to react quickly to stop a threat. I have a theory: I think she had not fully considered the concept that the man she had loved could end her life. This is a pretty high-level look at some intricate issues, but I hope it’s enough to get us all thinking outside the box of stranger violence.

Lesson One: Rethink what a bad guy looks like

Ladies, it’s time for some tough love. It’s time for us to talk about what a “bad guy” looks like. Because it’s not the picture in your head.

If you’ve taken a Refuse To Be A Victim class with me, you’ll know where this is going. We do a fun little exercise in the first hour that’s like a wedding shower game: everyone gets a piece of paper, some markers, and five minutes to draw a bad guy. Most everyone draws some scruffy looking dude who hasn’t seen a razor in a while, hiding in a hoodie and looking a lot like the Unabomber. Now, I’m not saying that guy shouldn’t be on our radar – he absolutely should – but there’s usually one student in the class who “gets” it. That student’s sketch might be a woman who looks a lot like you and me, or a handsome guy with a dashing smile. That’s when I roll out the slides of Ted Bundy and other “normal”-looking guys who’ve Done Very Bad Things.

Do not assume that someone with facial symmetry and blue eyes and a perfect smile could never hurt you.

Lesson Two: Listen to your gut

I’m going to ask you to take this path with me now, somewhere you don’t want to go: what if your bad guy is the one in your wedding photo? The guy whose face is on the pillow next to you?

There doesn’t have to be a history of domestic violence for it to strike a sudden, devastating blow. It only has to happen once. Does that mean we have to live in fear of violence from those we love, or have loved? No, that’s no way to live. And if you’re indignantly asking that question, I’m not talking to you.

I’m talking to the woman who has wondered, in the silence of her heart, “Could he?” Because if you’ve wondered it, he could. And you know it. Your intuition is God’s way of speaking to you, warning you of what could happen. Learn how to trust that still, small voice (and if you haven’t read it, read The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker). Do NOT shake off those niggling little doubts you’ve banished to the shadows of your mind to feed your secret guilt and insecurity. Those doubts exist for a reason, and that reason may very well be to save your life.

Lesson Three: Listen to real talk from friends and family

Let’s say your friend has a new beau. He’s a little coarse, but you give him the benefit of the doubt. Then, you hear about an altercation she had with her beau the night before. He stood over her, intimidating her with his physical presence, violating her personal space while angry, and called her an unforgivable name in a raised voice. Of course, you would tell your friend to run for the hills, right? This guy has no respect for her boundaries, seems to have anger issues, and was quick to escalate to Jerry Springer-level behavior. None of it bodes well for your friend, so you offer a warning.

Many people fail to recognize warning signs because they’re too close to the abuser/potential abuser. The bottom line is: don’t ignore the warnings of people who love you. They’re not hell-bent on ruining your love life. They want you to thrive and find your happy, and they’re sometimes better at spotting trouble than you are when it comes to your intimate relationships. Take a step back, take a breath, take a break. Realize that there is something to consider when someone risks losing your friendship to protect you from something you can’t yet see.

Take off the blinders

Above all, consider the possibility that your guy could become your bad guy. Covert conditions like narcissism and PTSD shroud themselves in normalcy and are more prevalent than ever these days. Those closest to a potential time bomb – if they’re observant and don’t bury their intuition – know that violence is a possibility if the right trigger sets him off.

Just taking that mental leap could mean you get to see tomorrow. Train, yes, but also be awake.

Violence perpetrated by known actors is not limited to male-on-female scenarios, but often this is the case. For the sake of the highest level of applicability, for ease of understanding, and in deference to the examples given, I will refer to typical male and female roles. Remember, though: violence is never typical and doesn’t wait for us to expect it.

A MAG-20 Range AAR

If you’ve taken a class from me or come to one of my A Girl and A Gun events, you’ve heard me say, “Remember to brain dump at the end of class.” Well, that’s a stupid thing to do.

So, I’ve been lying to my students for a long time now, but only realized it this weekend. If you’ve taken a class from me or come to one of my A Girl and A Gun events, you’ve heard me say, “Remember to brain dump at the end of class.” Well, that’s a stupid thing to do, and here’s why: by the end of a good class, you’ve forgotten 70 percent of what your instructor has taught you. (On a related note: 90 percent of all statistics are made up.) Thanks to Rachel Malone of Texas Firearms Freedom, I now have a better grasp of how all After-Action Reports should take shape for the ultimate student retention. It’s time to admit the error of my ways, and vow to do better. No time like the present.

MAG-20 and the “Ah-ha!” moment

May 20 and 21 I took the Massad Ayoob Group’s MAG-20 Live Fire course from Rachel, David Maglio, and Tracy Thronburg. Lonestar Range and Academy in Florence proved to be a simple and very adequate location for the class, albeit muddy due to some storms that mercifully didn’t stop us from getting in our range time. Tony, the range owner, was very accommodating and even provided coffee (bo.nus.). The weather turned out overcast and cool: just perfect for the 14 of us on the line to learn some excellent techniques that made us focus on why we do things the way we do them. Rachel suggested at the beginning of class that we take notes every time we reloaded mags, and, trying to be a good student, I did just that.

Game changer.

Rachel wasn’t kidding when she said that MAG-20 is like “drinking from a fire hose.” The students in this class weren’t new shooters, but we represented a wide variety of skill sets and experience. I have no doubt that, had I not taken copious notes at EVERY opportunity, I would have forgotten half of what our three highly experienced instructors shared by the time I got home to do my traditional “brain dump.” Mea culpa. I’m betting my fellow students had a similar realization, as I saw some pretty feverish note-taking behind the firing line.

Personal performance goals

The qualifier to pass the course comprises 60 rounds shot at the A-Zone of an IPSC target from various timed drills at 4, 7, 10, and 15 yards. I realized during the two days of training that I was internalizing all of the techniques, but execution was lacking due to a weak support-side arm. Hello, push-ups and grip trainer: here I come.

I didn’t shoot a 300 during the qualifier, but Rachel and top-shot student Jennifer Langsdale—of J&C Firearms Training, and A Girl and A Gun’s Killeen chapter facilitator—showed us all what getting that perfect score looked like. Now, my goals are:

  1. A 300 on the qual (to beat my 290) with my full-size Sig P320 in 30 days, and then,
  2. A 300 with my 9mm S&W Shield EDC within 90 days.

I really hope to blow those goals out of the water, but they seem realistic enough—with daily dry-fire thrown in the mix—that I won’t get too head-trashy and overthink them.

Major take-aways

Being a student is always a fantastic opportunity to see things from both sides. This was my first MAG class, but it certainly won’t be my last. Every class I take, no matter what skill level it’s meant to address, reinforces my belief that every instructor needs to be a perpetual student. The instructors in this class model that with their own training, and all of my mentors subscribe to the Dunning-Kruger school of thought. That’s why I giggle a bit whenever anyone tells me, “Oh, I don’t really need to take a class. I already know how to shoot.” I’m more and more sure with every class I attend that I don’t “know” how to shoot, and that I won’t teach my students any one incontrovertible way of doing things. I may know some shooting techniques and how to apply them, but the real challenge—as illustrated by this course and my sweaty, muddy notes scribbled hastily while loading mags—is articulating WHY I shoot the way I do (CYA?). And, since I’m always tweaking and changing things, the only thing I “know” about shooting at this point is that this is the way I do it right now, at this minute. As I learn better, I do better, and I am ALWAYS learning better, different, and not-for-me ways of doing things.

What’s your “why?” If you don’t know, it’s time to train. Call or e-mail me, come to A Girl and A Gun Girls’ Night Out (if you’re a girl, obvi), or go train with one of the unbelievably gifted nearby folks at KR Training, Texas Firearms Freedom, or someone else they recommend. If you operate daily on the assumption that you already “know” everything you actually NEED to know about shooting, to quote Sam Jackson from The Long Kiss Goodnight, “You make an ass out of you, and umption.” Time to train, folks. See you on the range.

Calendar of Events: A Girl and A Gun Temple

Follow our Google calendar and join our Facebook group to keep up-to-date on local women’s shooting events.

The Temple Chapter of A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League has Girls’ Night Out on the 1st Tuesday of the month at Temple Gun Club in Temple, TX, at 6 p.m.. We also host a members-only 3rd Saturday event. We develop weekend events and special training sessions that are members-only events.

You do not have to be a member of AG&AG to participate in our GNO event, but we highly encourage signing up. You get great discounts with local firearms trainers, on AGAG events and merchandise, and with more than 100 national-level vendors. A Girl and A Gun members are invited to attend a yearly Training Conference and other members-only events and training opportunities at local, regional, and national levels.

Follow our Google Calendar and join our Facebook chapter page to see what we’re all about, and join our chapter to have access to weekly training e-mails, the exclusive Shooting Journal, and monthly training challenges led by Becky Dolgener, facilitator and instructor with Texas Personal Defense Training.

NRA Refuse To Be A Victim Seminar Slated for February 25 in Temple

Crime prevention seminar helps students build personal safety toolkit.

Texas Personal Defense Training will offer the National Rifle Association’s award-winning crime prevention and personal safety seminar, Refuse To Be A Victim®, on February 25, 2017, at Ratibor Country Grill. This event will run from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., with lunch on your own to follow. Cost is $40 for attendees, and $30 for members of A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League.

Becky Dolgener, NRA Instructor, said the class is a natural next step for Texas Personal Defense Training.

“Our focus is helping women—and all Central Texans—to place more value on their own safety,” Dolgener explained. “What we started when we brought A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League to Temple is just the beginning, and it caught on in a big way with lots of local women wanting to share their love for firearms. Whatever gets people thinking about their safety, we’re all for it.”

Dolgener launched the Temple Chapter of A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League in June 2015. The group hosts multiple events each month at local shooting ranges, introducing women to the shooting sports while emphasizing education and safety. The group’s core membership is made up primarily of NRA-certified Range Safety Officers, who assist at events. While Refuse To Be A Victim seminars aren’t firearms classes, Dolgener says they’re essential to her mission.

“Our goal is to help our students build their safety toolkit, and that requires looking at personal safety strategies from lots of different angles.”

Developed in response to nationwide requests for crime prevention seminars, Refuse To Be A Victim teaches methods to avoid dangerous situations and prevent criminal confrontations. Seminar participants will be presented with a variety of common‑sense crime prevention and personal safety strategies and devices that may be integrated into their personal, home, automobile, telephone, technological, and travel security.

Since 1993, Refuse To Be A Victim has been endorsed by law enforcement members throughout the United States for its positive impact. With more than 7,000 instructors, seminars have been held in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nra-refuse-to-be-a-victim-seminar-tickets-31262990446 for more information. Please note: this is NOT a firearms training program.